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Tuesday, March 20 Opinion

A Father's Journal / Lessons learned: Ms. Lawlor's advice to Ms. Lawlor

Cue the music: "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King" and play it throughout this piece.

My daughter Caroline is a senior at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. She will spend her last month in the Fairfield school system at the elementary school and classroom where it began for her. She will intern at Ms. Grigg's kindergarten class at Mill Hill School.

I remember that, when she was very young, we would drive by Mill Hill and stare at the big kids playing on the playground. We would say to her "maybe someday when you are older you can go there."

She did go there. She learned to read there. She learned math and history. She made hand turkeys for Thanksgiving. She learned to ride her bicycle on the gentle grass slope behind the school, near the playground. Her younger sister learned there also.

Caroline learned to drive a car in the bus circle there about a year ago. Over and over we practiced circling the bus circle, then picking a space and parking in the teacher's parking lot. In May, she would be able to there legally, but I am not sure they give interns their own parking spaces. We will have to check on that.

Music swells with the lyrics "Circle of Life"

We have started calling Caroline "Ms. Lawlor" to prepare her for the internship. We then asked my sister, a longtime teacher of multiple grades, to give Caroline some advice on teaching kindergartners. My sister (also, not coincidently, called "Ms. Lawlor") agreed, and so is born Ms. Lawlor's advice to Ms. Lawlor. (Some other relatives who are teachers chimed in, too, but their names are not "Ms. Lawlor," so they don't get top billing -- or any billing.

Here are Ms. Lawlor's 17 pieces of advice for dealing with kindergartners:

No. 1: Don't let them wipe their noses or hands on you.

No. 2: Wear clothes with a pattern that doesn't show where they've wiped their noses or hands on your legs.

No. 3: Greet them each day and say "goodbye" when they leave.

No. 4: Learn the names of their parents, siblings, pets and imaginary friends.

No. 5: Wash your hands a lot.

No. 6: Do not laugh when you are scolding them, even if their crime was extremely creative.

No. 7: Let them choose a long book for you to read aloud.

No. 8: Push them on the swings even when you are tired.

No. 9: Pretend to know what you are doing and that you are in charge. They can smell weakness.

No. 10: Always compliment their artwork.

No. 11: Eat every cupcake, cookie and sandwich made especially for you with their grubby little hands.

No. 12: Keep your hair pulled back. Lice involves way too much laundry.

No. 13: Have a routine and stick to it.

No. 14: Give the kids jobs.

No. 15: Know at least five songs that you can sing with the kids at any moment. Don't be afraid to sing them again and again -- kids love repetition. Songs that require movement are best.

No. 16: Find a way to refuse kisses kindly. Maybe a gentle hug with your face turned to the side. You don't want their mouths near your face

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No. 17: Whatever you do, be really excited about it. If you show you are excited, even about cleaning up, they likely will be, too.

Music volume rises for a grand finale.

So Caroline is learning one more thing from Mill Hill School. She is learning that maybe she can go home again. She just can't park in the teachers' parking lot.

Maybe someday when she's older.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters.